Full Title: Comparing and Contrasting the Coaching Behaviors and Terminology Used by an Instructor to Teach Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Boys’ Basketball Players
Written by Lilly Schweickhardt, Academic Magnet High School, December 12, 2014
This thesis explores the terminology and coaching behaviors used in practice by an instructor of beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball players. Each session was categorized into nine groups: instructions, “Let’s go,” modeling positive, modeling negative, encouragement, scolds, smiles, and grunts. The modeling positive and negative categories were used when the coach demonstrated the correct or wrong way to perform a drill. It was hypothesized that the beginners would receive more encouragement than the advanced or intermediate athletes. To obtain the data, nine basketball practices were observed throughout the summer. It was found that the beginners received the most instructions, “Let’s go,” and encouragement, while the intermediate group was given the most modeling negative, and the advanced athletes obtained the most modeling positive, smiles, and grunts. The coach never scolded the athletes. The results of this thesis will help new basketball coaches who are unaware of coaching techniques. These coaches will understand that athletes of every skill level need encouragement as well as instructions and demonstrations to help them understand the drills.
An Introduction to Comparing and Contrasting the Coaching Behaviors and Terminology Used by an Instructor to Teach Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Basketball Players
Statement of Need
Basketball players competing at different levels require the coaches to instruct with appropriate terminology and behaviors. One coaching technique will not benefit every skill level because it may be too complex or too simple and will not provide for the optimal learning experience. For example, a coach may teach a younger team to shoot by offering examples that relate to their everyday lives, while coaches of advanced basketball players will instruct their athletes with lectures and demonstrations, explaining the concept concisely. A need for a standard set of coaching behaviors that should be exhibited by the instructors of each age group is significant because the performance and skills of the athletes will be greatly improved when the concepts can be clearly understood by every player.
Smith, Smoll, and Cumming (2007) state “coaches occupy a central and influential role in youth sports” (p. 39). An instructor’s behavior often impacts a child’s decision on whether or not to participate in a certain sport. Actions such as scolding when a mistake is committed may be harmful to a young athlete because they are “especially sensitive to fears of failure” (p. 40). Furthermore, the researchers have discovered that when children are scolded, they develop high anxiety levels that decrease sport enjoyment and performance. In order to avoid these negative situations, coaches should always encourage their players and provide constructive criticism instead of a reprimanding approach. Additionally, coaches who establish goals and values for their team usually have more pleasant and skilled athletes. When these factors are promoted, the children will continue to play and enjoy the sport.
Smith, Smoll, and Curtis (1979) agree with Smith, Smoll, and Cumming (2007) because they state that young athletes need encouragement when learning the fundamentals of a sport. Bloom, Crumpton, and Anderson (1999) supported this theory when they wrote, “[in] youth sport basketball…coaches most frequently exhibited praise or encouragement” (p. 167). By encouraging the players, self-esteem and motivation will be stimulated.
Gallimore and Tharp (2004) state that the same method of coaching will not work for every team. The coach must understand the players and work with their strengths and weaknesses. Since one coaching method will not be beneficial every team, various coaching systems need to be developed that will help all of the players improve their skills and performance in basketball.
In their investigation on successful university coaches, Vallée and Bloom (2005) discovered that expert coaches “equipped each athlete with skills, strategies, behaviors, and values that would build each individual into a champion on and off the court” (p. 187). In order to form a well-rounded person “on and off the court” (p. 187), the coaches must establish a trusting relationship with each athlete that will foster respect and communication between the two. Furthermore, upon entering the sport program at a college, instructors develop visions and goals for their team to achieve. The visions included plans for long-term success as well as individual growth. Lastly, every successful coach contains organizational skills that are used to plan practices and to prepare for the upcoming game. This is an important quality for an expert coach to possess because a practice is composed of many different exercises, which needs to be planned out in order to run successfully.
This thesis will examine the coaching behaviors and terminology used by an instructor to teach basketball to beginner, intermediate, and advanced athletes. The study will cover the gap in Smith, Smoll, and Cumming’s (2007) investigation because the affects of a coach’s actions will be viewed not only with youth, but also with more advanced athletes. Furthermore, in Vallée and Bloom’s (2005) analysis on successful university coaches, college instructors are the only type of expert coach studied. This thesis will cover the gap and examine how an expert basketball trainer’s behavior and thoughts differ between skill levels.
This thesis sought to compare and contrast the coaching behaviors and terminology exhibited by an instructor to beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball players. The purpose of this study was to discover effective coaching techniques used to instruct athletes of all skill levels, so in the future, coaches will understand the correct vocabulary and behaviors to use when instructing a basketball team. When the coaches understand the correct way to manage a practice, the players will further develop their skills and improve their performance. The coaching actions discovered that are appropriate for each skill level will extend the knowledge base by providing coaches with information necessary to improve their team’s abilities. It is hypothesized that beginners will receive more encouragement than the intermediate and advanced athletes. The primary field of study was coaching because an instructor was observed, and the secondary field of study was education because the coach should understand each athlete’s learning capabilities. Subtopics considered during this study included learning styles, previous skills, the coachability of an athlete, and the coaching techniques used.
Methods and Evaluation
Data collection began by obtaining the summer training schedule from the coach. The researcher attended nine practices during the summer, observing and recording the terminology and coaching behaviors exhibited by the instructor when teaching three skill levels of basketball. While observing, the researcher recorded specific words and actions shown by the coach and kept a tally of how often the coach instructed the athletes, said “Let’s go,” demonstrated the correct and wrong ways to perform a drill, encouraged and scolded the players, and how frequently he smiled and grunted during the session. For example, when the coach told the athletes to shoot five free throws, a tally was placed in the instructions category. This system of tallies helped the researcher understand the most prominent style of coaching when instructing a certain skill level. When the data collection concluded, the tallies were organized into bar graphs, which showed the comparisons and differences between the coaching techniques used in the three different skill levels. The final product is a five-chapter thesis with an introduction, a review of literature, methodology, data analysis, and conclusion. Videos of the training sessions were included in the final product to demonstrate the format of the practices. The research was deemed successful since different amounts of coaching behaviors and terminology were used to instruct the three different skill levels. The coach used age appropriate language and demonstrated the concepts in a way the athletes understood. The governing question was proven valid because coach of the practices agreed with the results of the thesis.
Possible conclusions, consequences, and connections resulted from the outcome of this thesis. The conclusion showed a difference between the terminology and coaching behaviors used to teach beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball players. Furthermore, the consequences will most likely lead to more knowledgeable coaches, which will produce greater skilled athletes. Lastly, this thesis connects with the learning styles of children and adolescents because the coach must fully understand the capabilities of each skill level.
This thesis is truly original because it is the first to compare and contrast the coaching behaviors and terminology used by an instructor to teach three different skill levels. Basketball coaching is a significant area of research because many kids and young adults throughout the world are involved in the sport and it is a necessity that they properly understand the rules and how to play the game. The outcome of this project is significant to the field of study because it will allow instructors to adjust their current coaching methods to become more understandable to the athletes.
This thesis extends beyond the scope of the research because the coaching behaviors and terminology exhibited by the training instructor can be mimicked by other coaches of beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball players throughout the United States. Furthermore, one could extend the research of this thesis by studying a girls’ basketball coach and determining if the same vocabulary and coaching behaviors are used by the instructor. Additionally, while observing practices, the researcher learned how to communicate with a child or adolescent in a way comprehensible to their age.
A Literature Review Pertaining to Different Instructing Methods, Behaviors, and Terminology Used by Sport Coaches of Varying Skill Levels
Researchers have proposed two reoccurring theories accounting for the coaching styles of beginner and advanced sport teams. One theme suggests that coaches of beginner teams should encourage the athletes to see improvement in self-esteem and performance (Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1979), while the other theme indicates that coaches of advanced teams tend to instruct their players about drills and the upcoming game rather than display encouragement (Gallimore & Tharp, 2004). No conflicting theories are discussed in the literature because most researchers agree with the existing beliefs. This literature review sought to answer the question of how do the coaching behaviors and terminology exhibited by an instructor differ when teaching beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball, while presenting details about the learning styles of different skill levels, the coaching methods used to instruct each group, and the factors that contribute to a relationship between the coach and the athlete.
Youths who participate in basketball are usually beginners coached by volunteers. They are taught the basic fundamentals such as dribbling, shooting, passing, and defense, which will be necessary when learning more advanced skills. Often times, youth athletes participate in multiple sports each year because they are discovering the sport that suits them best. When an athlete is deciding what sport in which he or she should partake, the coach’s personality is considered. For example, many youth athletes need a coach that will encourage and not scold when making mistakes.
Coaching methods. When coaching beginners, instructors tend to provide positive reinforcement, praise, and rewards instead of scolding the players (Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1979). These coaching behaviors produce athletes with greater self-esteem and the knowledge that mistakes are to be used as positive learning experiences. This theory explains why the behavioral coaching method studied in Allison and Ayllon’s (1980) examination was effective in improving the techniques of athletes because the coaches would encourage the players to perform the skill accurately as well as correct their improper form by using pleasant and supportive language. Rush and Ayllon (1984) expanded on the study by Allison and Ayllon because they investigated the behavioral coaching method by using a peer as a coach instead of an adult. The researchers discovered that a peer becomes a good coach when he or she “demonstrates high competence, is an expert, possesses high social status, is older in age, and controls resources valuable to the learner” (Rush & Ayllon, 1984, p. 326). The results of the study agreed with the results of Allison and Ayllon’s because they discovered that peer behavioral coaching improves the skills of an athlete and more than doubles the amount of times a skill is performed correctly. Vernadakis, Antoniou, Zetou, and Kioumourtzoglou’s (2004) study expanded the knowledge on coaching methods used to instruct youth teams because they determined that the best way to coach the shooting of a basketball was to have a series of lectures, drills, and demonstrations reinforced by a video teaching the same material, which is called mixed instruction.
Learning styles. According to the National Science Resources Center (2002), “children learn best when they can link new information to something they already know” (p. 21). This process allows children to learn by relating their newly learned information to their previous experiences. Furthermore, children learn best when taught age appropriate material. This idea relates to basketball because at a young age, children should be taught the fundamentals instead of more intricate concepts such as plays and formations. The children will understand the fundamentals and expand on their knowledge as they grow older.
Coach-athlete relationship. Smith, Smoll, and Cumming (2007) indicate that a child who perceives their coach as supportive “experience[s] higher levels of sport enjoyment” (p. 40). When an athlete has an encouraging coach, they do not fear failure, nor do they worry about committing mistakes. Coaches should strive for the best possible relationship with their team in order to improve their performance in a sport. Kenow and Williams (1999) agree with Smith, Smoll, and Cumming because they state that high coach-athlete compatibility stems from positive behaviors exhibited by the coach. In addition to positive behaviors, Kenow and Williams state that the “athletes’ goals, personality, and beliefs” (p. 155) need to be in accordance with the coach in order for a coach-athlete relationship to form. Having compatibility among the team will result in an increase of the players’ self-confidence. Vallée and Bloom (2005) add that success will result from a coach-athlete relationship based on “trust, respect, communication, and care for the person” (p. 193). This bond will occur when the athletes enjoy playing for the coach and a mutual respect is established.
Youth coaches. Koester (2000) determined that many injuries in youth sports are caused by an untrained coach’s teaching methods. He states, “many injuries can be attributed to improper technique and conditioning methods taught by volunteer coaches” (p. 466). This situation evokes the need for knowledgeable and trained coaches, which will lead to less injuries and more experienced athletes.
Intermediate athletes possess more abilities than beginners, but have not acquired the skill level of the advanced players. Usually, intermediate athletes play at the middle and high school levels where they are instructed by semi-knowledgeable coaches. By middle and high school, coaches expect the athletes to understand most of the fundamentals, so practices will not be spent going over the basics.
Middle and high school coaches. The study completed by Jones, Housner, and Kornspan (1997) examined the differences between experienced and inexperienced basketball coaches who instructed at the high school and middle school levels. The researchers concluded that experienced coaches display significantly more technical instruction such as how to perform a skill, while inexperienced coaches exhibited more silent observation during practice. These differences are due to the knowledge an instructor contains about a sport because after many years of coaching, an instructor obtains an understanding about the teaching process and when a contingency plan is required during practice. Furthermore, an experienced coach is able to provide feedback to the athletes and explain the correct positioning when executing a specific skill. Claxton’s (1988) observation of successful and unsuccessful coaches agrees with Jones, Housner and Kornspan’s study because he found that less experienced coaches often spend practice in silence, which is not a productive or effective instruction strategy. Moreover, Claxton revealed that successful coaches question their athletes more than less successful coaches. Questioning is useful when assessing an athlete’s knowledge or when asking why they performed a skill a certain way. Additionally, questioning helps to build the understanding of a sport and skills because any confusions or misconceptions will be removed.
Elite athletes participate in the college and professional levels of basketball. They are coached by experienced men and women who have instructed at a high level for many years. Most athletes playing at the top level of basketball have participated in the sport since they were youths. They have increased their knowledge of the sport and improved on their basic skills.
Coaching methods. Since most college basketball players understand the fundamentals, practices usually consist of instructions on how to perform drills or information about the upcoming game (Gallimore & Tharp, 2004). Furthermore, unlike youth practices, elite basketball players are rarely praised or encouraged by their coach after making a shot, hustling for a ball, or executing any other positive plays. Bloom, Crumpton, and Anderson’s (1999) results from their study on Fresno State men’s basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian agree with Gallimore and Tharp’s conclusions in their study of Coach Wooden because they discovered that Coach Tarkanian mainly exhibited tactile instruction during his practices and infrequently praised or scolded his athletes. Coach Tarkanian and Coach Wooden had similar tactile instructions because they both taught their athletes strategies for the upcoming games (Bloom, Crumpton, & Anderson, 1999).
Learning styles. In Gallimore and Tharp’s (2004) study, Coach Wooden mentioned that an instructor “can’t work with [the players] in the same way” (p. 226). Each player benefits from different coaching methods and a coach should “study and analyze each individual” (p. 126) in order to determine the best coaching method.
Encouragement. Although Gallimore and Tharp (2004) discovered that elite basketball players are not praised much during practices, the study by Andreacci et al. (2001) found that athletes perform better with encouragement. During the experiment, two types of praises were used to encourage the athletes. The first was positive reinforcement, which used phrases like “Way to go” and “Excellent.” The second set of phrases was called instructional commands, which were “Come on” and “Keep it up.” The positive reinforcements were used to praise the athletes, while the instructional commands not only encouraged, but also directed the athlete to continue their assignment. When both of these encouragement groupings are used in accordance, the athlete will excel at the assigned task, rather than if no encouragement is used.
Coach-athlete relationship. Jowett (2003) states, “the most important interpersonal relationship in the sport domain is that formed between the coach and the athlete” (p. 444). She believes a professional relationship is built upon “trust, respect, commitment, and understanding” (p. 444) and these aspects cause team success. Jowett created the three C’s to describe a coach-athlete relationship, which are: closeness, co-orientation, and complementarity. Closeness is characterized with mutual feelings of regard for one another, as opposed to disrespect and distrust. Co-orientation consists of communication between the coach and the athlete and allows the pair to share their thoughts, goals, and ideas for the team. Finally, complementarity “refers to the type of behavioral interaction in which the coach and athlete are engaged” (p. 445). If the three C’s are achieved, the coach and athlete will have an improved performance as well as a long lasting connection that will be beneficial on and off the basketball court.
Qualities of expert coaches. Vallée and Bloom (2005) state “very few leaders are able to build a successful program…and maintain a level of excellence for an extended period of time” (p. 179). This assertion conveys the message that only a few individuals have the experience and qualities necessary to be considered an expert coach. Furthermore, this examination discovered four categories that were exhibited by expert coaches, which were titled, “coaches’ attributes, individual growth, organizational skills, and vision” (Vallée & Bloom, 2005, p. 185). This study extended the knowledge on the composition of expert coaches because the researchers found that great coaches put more emphasis on building the character of an athlete rather than winning championships.
Mentoring Coaches and Athletes. Studies determined that mentoring does not have a clear definition, but researchers do know that the process occurs when “there is a trusting relationship…when there is an interest on the part of the coach in the personal development of the athlete, when the coach purposefully allocates his/her time to fulfill the needs of the athlete, and when an imitation of behavior takes place” (Bloom, Durand-Bush, Schinke, and Salmela, 1998, p. 268). These qualities allow the athlete and the mentor to connect with one another, so the best possible learning environment exists. Furthermore, both the coach and the athlete benefit from mentoring because the athlete improves his or her skills and performance while the coach discovers new instructing methods. In addition to teaching one how to shoot or dribble, a mentor will teach the athlete valuable life skills. This statement is similar to Vallée and Bloom’s (2005) study because they asserted that expert coaches promote “individual growth” (p. 185) among their athletes. Moreover, beginner coaches are mentored by expert coaches to enhance their knowledge about a sport. When a novice coach is mentored, they gain self-confidence and enhance their lesson planning.
Gaps in the Research
Some articles insist that further research must be performed to fill the gaps in their study. Many sources request research to be completed on reasons why a certain result occurred. For example, the study by Claxton (1988) wondered why less successful coaches praise more in practice and they demand further research on this subject.
Gaps in the articles about coaching methods. The study by Vernadakis, Antoniou, Zetou, and Kioumourtzoglou (2004) insists that further research should be executed to determine whether the mixed instruction method is helpful to high school aged athletes when learning a particular skill. Moreover, Bloom, Crumpton, and Anderson (1999) request that further research is completed on coach Tarkanian’s instructing behaviors during practice. The researchers want to examine the tactile training method and understand how the coach adjusts his game plans for the upcoming competition and if he creates new plays to match his team’s learning style.
Gaps in the articles about experienced vs. inexperienced coaches. Jones, Housner, and Kornspan’s (1997) investigation on the behaviors of experienced and inexperienced coaches produced many gaps that need to be addressed. The researchers discovered that this study covered only one aspect of coaching behaviors, which may have allowed for minimal difference between the actions of experienced and inexperienced coaches. They announced that research should be conducted in order to discover all of the elements that form an expert coach, so that in the future, instructors can improve their teaching to “bring meaningful instruction to athletes” (p. 467).
Gaps in the articles about expert coaches. In their 2005 study, Vallée and Bloom determined that an expert coach possesses leadership qualities, a desire to help their players grow as athletes and as human beings, and they develop visions and goals for the team when they enter the sport program. They discovered these characteristics through an interview that was semi-structured, meaning the questions were open ended, allowing the coach to take their own path in the discussion. However, these interviews only addressed the coach’s views on a successful team and the athlete’s opinion was not considered. Further research needs to be implemented to define how an athlete views an expert and successful coach because an instructor will only become successful through their team. Secondly, this study was composed of female coaches only, and male expert coaches may have different qualities than their female counterparts. Additionally, all five female coaches taught in Canada, which opens up a possibility to perform the same experiment with coaches from other nationalities because the qualities of an expert coach may not be similar for every country. Lastly, coaches of youth, middle school, and high school teams should partake in this study because the criteria for becoming an expert coach will not be the same for every level. This study needs to be expanded because the qualities of expert coaches are not completely defined.
Gaps in the article about mentoring. The study by Bloom, Durand-Bush, Schinke, and Salmela (1998) was unable to define the concept of mentoring because many different types exist, such as when a coach mentors an athlete or when an expert instructor mentors a novice. The researchers request further research on the subject of mentoring in the sports domain because significant research is scarce.
Contributions to Present Coaches
These studies contribute a plethora of knowledge to the coaches and athletes in the sports domain. From reading these articles, coaches should understand the correct behavior they must display when coaching either at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. Sources about teaching at the novice level always mention encouragement rather than scolding when instructing the players on how to perform a skill while the elite level coaches instruct more during practice. They also describe how the coach and athlete should have a trusting relationship, which will boost performance and self-confidence among the team. When coaches understand that they must form a strong relationship with their players, the team will see more wins and greatly improved skills. Furthermore, these documents explain effective instructing methods used to teach young children that should be implemented by coaches for every sport, individual and team. These methods include behavioral coaching, traditional instruction, computer-assisted instruction, and mixed instruction. All of these techniques are proven to be successful and they will help the team improve their performance. In addition to suggesting teaching methods, the articles also provide insight to the practices of arguably the greatest college basketball coach, John Wooden. By reading the document, other college coaches can try to model their training sessions like his, using the same behavior and exercises described by Gallimore and Tharp (2004). Lastly, instructors should understand the qualities of a successful coach when they read the articles. The source explains that coaches should foster individual growth among their athletes to help them become wonderful young men and women in their life.
Methods to Address the Data Collection and Observations of Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Basketball Practices
This thesis compared and contrasted the vocabulary and the coach’s actions exhibited by an instructor to beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball players. The question for this thesis was: How do the coaching behaviors and terminology used by a basketball instructor differ between skill levels? Methods were quantitative and the data contains descriptions of the language and coaching techniques. The researcher observed training sessions of three different skill levels conducted by a former College of Charleston basketball player. He instructs athletes in elementary, middle, high school, and college. Practices, which are held at the Jewish Community Center and the YMCA on Cannon Street, were observed throughout the summer in order to obtain the most accurate data.
Three different basketball skill levels were observed throughout the data collection process. One training session was composed of athletes who are beginning to play basketball, another session contained intermediate athletes, and the third practice consisted of advanced basketball players. The amount and race of participants depended on the athletes who signed up for the training sessions. For this thesis, the researcher observed practices involving individual athletes rather than teams.
A video camera was needed for this thesis and was used to record practices for the purpose of obtaining video footage for the final product.
First, the researcher obtained the weekly practice schedule by emailing the coach every Sunday. The researcher attended mostly Sunday training sessions, as well as a few practices during the week, and observed the terminology and coaching behaviors exhibited by the instructor. The actions and vocabulary were categorized into eight groups titled: instructions, “Let’s go,” modeling positive, modeling negative, encouragement, scolds, smiles, and grunts, and analyzed at the end of summer. In addition, a tally was kept showing the amount of time the instructor exhibited one of the categorized behaviors, which allowed the researcher to view the most prevalent form of coaching for each skill level. At the end of a beginner basketball practice, there were twenty-two tally marks by encouragement and only two by grunts, which explains how encouragement is most prominent when coaching beginners at basketball. The data collected was also sorted into charts and a bar graph displaying the occurrence of the coach’s actions for each group.
The data collection was deemed successful because the tables and bar graph showed how different terminology and coaching behaviors were used to instruct the three skill levels. Since the beginners received the most encouragement, the hypothesis was proven correct. The validity of the thesis was partially proven because the bar graph’s results are slightly consistent with the conclusions in the literature and the governing question was answered because the coach agreed with the findings of the thesis.
A possible conclusion justified by the data is that coaches instruct beginners with more encouragement and advanced basketball players with greater instructions and demonstrations. The data confirms the hypothesis through the bar graph displaying differences in the terminology and coaching behaviors when instructing beginner, intermediate, and advanced basketball players.
An Analysis of the Data Collected by Observing Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Basketball Training Sessions
From the beginning of June to the end of July, nine training sessions instructed by Jermel President were observed. In total, eleven athletes attended the practices, their skill levels ranging from beginners to advanced basketball players. Some of the athletes were observed multiple times, which was beneficial because their progress over the summer was visible. The sessions were held at the Jewish Community Center and the YMCA on Cannon Street.
Averages for Terminology and Coaching Behaviors Performed by Instructor during Training Sessions
These tables and bar graph present the data collected from observing Jermel President’s training sessions over the summer. His practices were categorized into eight groups: instructions, “Let’s go,” modeling positive, modeling negative, encouragement, scolds, smile, and grunt. When one of these behaviors was exhibited, a tally was placed in a chart containing the names of the groups. This process was used for every skill level observed: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. In total, three beginner practices, one intermediate session, and five advanced training sessions were observed.
The chart shows that beginners received the most instructions, “Let’s go’s,” and encouragement, while the advanced group was given the most modeling positive, smiles, and grunts. Additionally, the intermediate athlete was provided with the most modeling negative. The coach did not scold any athletes during the observation period over the summer, and did not smile or grunt much either. Overall, the data exemplifies that the coach spent the majority of the training sessions instructing, saying, “Let’s go,” and encouraging the players.
The instructions category displays the amount of times the coach explained how to execute a drill and when he told the players to hustle for the ball. Also, the athletes were given instructions on how to correct their mistakes in order to improve their technique. For example, when coaching the advanced group, the instructor told the players to remain positive during the game, even if they miss a shot.
Furthermore, the “Let’s go” category exhibits the number of times the instructor said, “Let’s go.” He said this phrase to maintain the athlete’s concentration, energize the player when he missed a shot, and to encourage the athlete to work harder during a drill.
Modeling positive was noted when the instructor demonstrated the correct way to perform a drill. Usually the coach would exhibit modeling positive whenever he introduced a new concept, or when the athlete needed a reminder on the correct way to execute the technique. On the contrary, modeling negative was used to show the players how they were performing the exercise wrong. This category was also used as a teaching moment to describe how the defense will react in a game if the concept is completed incorrectly.
Encouragement was tallied when the coach said, “Good shot” or other uplifting words to the players when they mastered a skill and made a basket. These expressions helped the athletes recognize the coach’s approval.
The scolds, smile, and grunt categories were the least noted groups. The coach smiled when the advanced athletes perfected a technique and grunted when the players continually missed their shots. However, the instructor never reprimanded the players when they missed the basket or when they lost their concentration; he used those moments to teach the athletes how to correct their mistakes.
Altogether, the methods of collecting the data were successful because multiple training sessions were observed to record the most accurate information. However, only one intermediate athlete attended the practice in the summer, which poses a weakness in the data. Although this limitation may hinder effective data for the intermediate group, the beginner group contains extremely useful data because the ages of the participants ranged from seven to a high school student. This age difference allows the researcher to view different coaching methods for the same skill level, which proves the techniques are versatile and applicable to every age.
A Discussion of the Data Collected by Observing Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Basketball Training Sessions
The data collected by observing basketball training sessions supports the hypothesis because it shows a difference between the terminology and coaching behaviors used to teach each skill level. Although the range between the largest amount and smallest amount in each category is not considerable, the data clearly shows which skill level received the most material in every group.
Beginner athletes, primarily children, received an average of almost 25 instructions each practice due to the multiple shooting and dribbling drills completed in the session. Short attention spans were the main cause of the increased instructions because the coach needed to keep the athletes focused and on task. Furthermore, the National Science Resources Center (2002) explains how children learn by linking new information to their pre-existing thoughts. The coach demonstrates this idea by teaching the youth to dribble in little i’s and little v’s. The athletes are able to understand this concept because they can picture an i and a v and perform the exercise based on their knowledge of the letters.
The intermediate and advanced athletes who attended the sessions did not require a large amount of instruction because they remained focused and performed the drills with more accuracy and intensity than the beginners. This finding disagrees with Gallimore and Tharp’s (2004) study because they state that coaches of advanced basketball players spend most of practice instructing the players. These differences are possibly affected by the skill of the athletes and the coaching style.
The “Let’s go” category extremely favored the beginners with an average occurrence of 30.3 times each training session. This phrase was used to gain the concentration of the athletes when becoming distracted during the drills. Youth needed constant reminding to remain focused, due to their short attention spans and struggles with the exercises. Additionally, “Let’s go” was used as encouragement during the beginner practice with the high-school student. After missing several layups, the coach exclaimed “Let’s go” as reassurance to stay positive and focused on the task.
Intermediate and advanced athletes received significantly less “Let’s go’s” than the beginners. Instead of using the phrase as a concentration reminder, the coach used the expression to help athletes stay positive after missing numerous shots. In Andreacci et al.’s study (2001), “Let’s go” would be grouped with instructional commands, which are used as encouragement and directions to continue with the task.
Modeling positive was expressed mostly in advanced practices due to the many complicated drills and the perfecting of technique. Before a new exercise was begun, the coach would demonstrate the correct way to perform a drill to help the athletes understand the skills. Beginner and intermediate athletes also needed the coach to perform modeling positive. Though the drills were not very complex, the coach still exhibited the proper form to help the players improve their technique.
The averages of modeling negative were similar for each skill level. Athletes of every age benefit from this behavior because they are able to view their mistakes and correct their wrong technique. Furthermore, modeling negative helps the athletes view how the defense will react when a concept is performed wrong. For example, one player was not hustling in practice. The coach announced that he would be easy to defend in a game due to his limited movement. The coach modeled how the defense will react to a static player versus an active player. Demonstrations allow the athletes to understand concepts and visualize the actions in a game.
The results of the encouragement category both agree and disagree with the studies in the literature review. Beginners received the greatest amount of praise due to the need for a reminder that the skill is performed correctly. Smith, Smoll, and Curits (1979) state that encouragement increases the self-esteem of young athletes because they are applauded for their behavior. Coach President demonstrated this belief by encouraging the youth whether they made or missed the basket. Furthermore, intermediate and advanced skill levels received large amounts of encouragement as well because the coach wants the athletes to know that he is pleased with their actions. However, Gallimore and Tharp (2004) do not agree with this belief. They found that expert coaches did not praise their players after a made basket because they expect the athletes to perform at a high level. When told about this study, coach President announced that intermediate and advanced athletes still need encouragement to become motivated and remain positive through rough shooting days.
No athlete was scolded during the training sessions. The coach knows that mistakes will occur during the practices and he wants the athletes to improve from their mishaps. Moreover, the coach smiled during the advanced training session when the athletes perfected a skill taught to them. This action correlates with coach-athlete relationship mentioned by Jowett (2003) because both the instructor and the players must have respect for one another. The players trust the coach to help them improve, and the coach expects the players to learn from his teachings.
Lastly, only a few grunts were experienced during the practices, due to the mindset of the coach to encourage the athletes during their mistakes. The grunts of disapproval came when the athletes in both skill levels missed their shots. However, the grunts were not classified as scolding, the coach was merely upset when the athlete could not finish the task when he was close to achieving a goal.
Overall, the data collection was successful. Participants from each skill level attended the training sessions and useful data was recorded. However, the thesis only consisted of males as participants, so it is possible that all of the coaching behaviors and terminology were not observed. Also, only one participant was studied for the intermediate skill level. This limitation hinders the ability to compare different sessions to view patters in the data. If this thesis is expanded upon, the researcher should view the terminology and coaching behaviors used when instructing girls’ basketball. Once the data is collected for females, the results should be compared to the findings from the male study to view the similarities and differences.
The results of this thesis should help coaches of each skill level determine the best methods of coaching for the age of the players. For example, youth coaches will understand that children need an ample amount of encouragement to raise their self-esteem, while coaches of intermediate and advanced athletes should perform modeling positive when explaining a drill. Basketball players of every skill level will increase their sport’s performance due to their coach’s increase in knowledge and their preparedness to lead the team.
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